Ethics laid waste by tobacco cessationists once again…

You’d think we’d have little to do.

Smokers are still dying, there is a safer alternative (the safety well supported by the scientific evidence) for those who cannot or do not wish to quit nicotine, and this alternative (smokeless tobacco) is almost as easy to buy as cigarettes.

But for some reason, self described care practitioners still have little problem using false statements to promote their abstentionist views. (This post is not an argument against promoting abstention, but an argument that if one is to do so, it can and should be done with truthful statements, not statements that could literally result in unneeded deaths).

In a recent edition of the Rutland Herald, Sarah Cosgrove of the Rutland Regional Medical Center wrote this article, and on the assumption she was providing a truth informed perspective, the Herald published it.

Either through ignorance or malice, Sara Cosgrove misled the Rutland Herald, and the public, among them smokers looking for alternatives, on at least three points.

The very basic summary of her article called Chewing Tobacco can be Deadly is that it is in fact deadly illustrated by the fact that it caused the death of Babe Ruth, and under no circumstances should smokers consider switching from their current habit to using smokeless tobacco.

One: Babe Ruth’s death was caused by a nasopharyngeal carcinoma. This form of cancer is not associated with tobacco use but with Epstein Barr virus. (See Mayo Clinic write up on this.)

Two: Though Ruth did chew tobacco, he was a lifelong smoker and drinker (and there anecdotes of him doing all three at once, not to mention horrendous eating habits). Current evidence shows that among those cancers of the head and neck that are not viral, the most common causes by far are alcohol consumption and smoking, and not smokeless tobacco. So even if Cosgrove had correctly identified Ruth’s cancer, the cause would most likely not have been smokeless tobacco. Clearly this is using false information to support what cannot be supported through current scientific knowledge.

Third: Though it is fair to argue against smokeless tobacco use, it is irresponsible to use false statements to make the case, and for a health professional it is highly unethical. Not only have all surveys to date found that most people believe smokeless tobacco to be as or more dangerous than smoking, all studies have shown smokeless tobacco to be safer than smoking. It is not a matter of debate among scientists, it is a given. There are arguments over whether promoting smokeless tobacco to smokers is good policy but not over whether one is safer than the other.

You have to wonder why someone who writes as though they care about health would actively discourage smokers from considering a life saving alternative.


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